10 Proverbs to Improve Social Media

By | Christians, Leadership | One Comment

These Proverbs Could Greatly Improve Social Media

If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences. Proverbs 9:12

Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:13

A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11

Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. Proverbs 11:12 

The one who searches for what is good seeks favor, but if someone looks for trouble it will come to him. Proverbs 11:27 

A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Proverbs 12:16

There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 

Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1 

Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent – discerning, when he seals his lips. Proverbs 17:28

Any you would add?

(All CSB Version)

7 Christmas Gifts Ideas for Your Husband (Or the Man of Your Life)

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I recently posted some Christmas gift ideas for husbands struggling to find something for their wife. I had written about this subject before and it came from years of experience talking with men in church. Many times, they didn’t know what to buy so they either did nothing or just gave their wife money. I wanted to help them with some more creative ideas. 

As I should have anticipated, I heard from a number of women who are looking for help with gift ideas for the men in their life – husbands, sons, friends, etc. It makes sense. In fact, I am probably much harder to buy for than it is for me to find something Cheryl might like. 

Just as every woman is unique, so is every man. Therefore, these are general suggestions, but I hope they help steer your own thoughts. 

7 gift ideas for the men in your life: 

Guilt-free time to do what he enjoys. Granted, he might do this anyway, but this gift eliminates any guilt he may feel when he does. Perhaps give him a coupon book of hours or days he can use throughout the year. You’ll clear the calendar and handle his responsibilities, so he can do what he loves to do. 

(Disclosure: I have done marriage counseling for years, so I know many women feel their husbands take advantage of their time away from the family. I’m not advocating that either. You will have to use discretion on whether this is an appropriate gift in your context.)

More of what he loves. Most men have an attraction to some item – some “gadget”. I have known guys who love tools and others who love flashlights. Give them another one of those and they are happy. I have some friends who like writing pens. It could even be a Bible. If they have multiple of something – whatever it is – it is likely they would welcome having more. If you are unsure on this one, go with a pocketknife. For most men a pocketknife is always a welcome gift. You’re usually safe here. 

Organized time with friends. The older I get the more I value genuine relationships I have with men in my life. Some of these date back to high school and college. Some are more recent relationships. Organizing a gathering of a few close or “ole” friends would be a welcomed gift for many men. 

Something he wouldn’t buy for himself. Many men have something they would love, but they have placed their financial priorities elsewhere. They simply wouldn’t spend the money to buy it. If you can figure this out – and afford it – this would make an ideal Christmas gift. (As an example, I use this one for when my mother-in-law wants to buy me something. I got AirPods that way.)

Tickets. Whether it’s to a sporting event, a concert, or play (based on their preference) give him tickets to somewhere with someone with whom he would enjoy spending time. Of course, it will be even better is if this someone is you. (It might be with one of his children too.) 

Donate in his name. If you simply can’t think of something, give a gift that invests in others. Make a donation to his favorite charity on his behalf. Most men would feel very honored in this way. 

Tribute. This might be the best idea I have to share. I’ve believed and taught for years that a man’s greatest need is respect. Every man wants to feel they have added value to the world. You give a lasting gift when you choose to honor him personally. 

Some examples of this gift. It could be a frame of sayings he frequently is heard saying. (this would show him you’re listening.) This could also be individual tributes that you gather from people about him. It could be a listing of traits you admire about him arranged in a creative way.

It could be something that encourages him daily. My grandmother once gave me a study Bible with a letter written to me in the inside cover. I treasure that gift. My mom gave me a frame in high school with a quote she saw that reminded her of me. She made a cross stitched plaque that says, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I still love that gift. 

Those are a few suggestions. If you don’t see one you think will work for your man, hopefully something here will trigger a thought of something that will. 

10 Questions for a Pastor’s Spouse to Ask a Prospective Church

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization | No Comments

I am frequently asked by pastors to help them process going to another church. They want to make the wisest decision and that involves asking the right questions. I always appreciate when a pastor is diligent in this process.

Although it should certainly be a “call”, I believe God often allows us latitude in discerning where we serve. And one right question may avoid a wrong decision.

I previously post 25 Questions the Prospective Pastor Should Ask the Church.

But what about the spouse? I equally believe they need to be asking questions. In fact, sometimes they can ask the “better” questions.

I gave this advice to a pastor recently and he asked what questions his wife should ask. I decided to share here what I suggested to him.

10 questions a pastor’s spouse can ask a prospective church:

  • What will family time be like for our family? Can I expect it to be protected/honored by the church?
  • Can you give any examples of what the church does to protect my family?
  • What expectations are specifically placed upon me in terms of serving in the church? What is my assumed role in pastoral care?
  • My passion is ________. Will I be able to fulfill this passion here under the current context and structure?
  • What was the role of the last couple of pastor spouses?
  • Within the culture of the church, what is it like in terms of treating the pastor’s spouse? Will I be subjected to criticism? What about church gossip?
  • Does the church encourage me in traveling with my spouse?
  • If I were to ask the last pastor the source of the greatest stress in serving here as pastor what would they say? How would the spouse answer?
  • How many weekends off a year should I expect/plan for our family?
  • If they could have, what was something the church would have changed about the last pastor’s spouse? What did they love? 

Any others you would add?

Help For the Husband: Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Christians, Encouragement, Leadership | One Comment

Maybe you’ve thought about Christmas for your wife, but you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

7 gift ideas for your wife this Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but you have just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks I am told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe it is a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing you will give her more of your free time. Maybe it is access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This is not for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, she is just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it does not have to be in May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon.

In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

The Reality

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

7 Thoughts For Pastors on Preparing For Christmas Services

By | Christians, Church | 3 Comments

As a pastor, I often told our staff that “Christmas is the new Easter”. It wasn’t something I could say as easily on Sunday morning without receiving the ALL CAP Monday morning emails. This requires a bit of an explanation.

Easter will always be the most important holiday for believers. Christianity is just a religion without the resurrection of Jesus. But in terms of reaching unchurched people – Christmas is the new Easter. From my experience, it appears easier to get people to attend at Christmas than it is on Easter Sunday.

Much of this has to do with the cultural implications we already deal with every Sunday. No longer is Sunday reserved as a day of rest from other activities. Going to the lake, attending a sporting event, or participating in traveling ball/dance is no longer taboo. 

Some of it has to do with the schedules of our church services. Typically, churches offer Easter services over a weekend. You could have a dozen services total. I’ve noticed churches starting their service offerings earlier in Easter week. (And I think that’s a good idea.) But regardless of the number you likely have them over a few days. Christmas-themed services can go from Thanksgiving through the New Year. (And if you want to follow the retail trend you can start decorating for Christmas in September!) 

Sadly, some of Christmas as the new Easter has to do with the message. Santa and Ho Ho Ho are more culturally acceptable at Christmas time than embracing the only One true God who got up from the grave.  (You can send me an ALL CAP email if you want, and I am certainly not agreeing with the culture on this, but it is true.) 

If this is true and Christmas is the new Easter in terms of reaching people who don’t regularly attend church, then our planning for Christmas must be more intentional than ever. 

I wanted to share a 7 thoughts with your church to consider. Many of these are things we did in our previous church. Some are derived from our experience over the last year or so sitting in the pews and visiting dozens of churches. 

My Suggestions

Recruit new volunteers. 

This one can potentially serve the church long after the Christmas celebration. You can onboard people easier during the Christmas season. Much like Easter, especially with vision-casting, church members will understand the need for new volunteers during a busier season. Use this as an advantage to get more people into key roles, but also as a discipleship tool knowing that people who serve are in a better position to be growing personally. 

Ask members to sacrifice. 

Christmas affords you a unique opportunity to ask your most committed people to serve in ways they may not otherwise. It is important to be fully staffed from the parking lot to the baby room. You will need extra greeters. People need to be willing to give up “their” seat for visitors. I personally believe you should always be thinking for your guests every Sunday. You should plan every detail you possibly can for them to experience excellence. In times where there are more visitors this is even more important. 

Pastors, this is an excellent time to vision-cast about the guest experience you want to create. Make it a big deal, because it is a big deal.

Let the story be the story. 

As a pastor, I felt so much pressure on the Christmas message. The fact that it is so well known and a part of the culture only adds to the pressure. My best advice is that you don’t have to find the new twist you’ve never shared. People watch Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas every year for a reason. “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” never gets old. The story of a baby, born to a Virgin, and laid in a manger is timeless. You don’t have to find something new. 

Share the gospel

I should have to say this. Hopefully, you don’t need that reminder, but with all the attention on the lights and tinsel, don’t forget to share the most important message of the year. A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord.

Share about the New Year. 

Find creative ways to talk about some of the things happening at your church; especially as you head into the new year. Help people understand the value regular church engagement offers them and their family. I always liked for the information we handed out to be unique from a regular bulletin. It’s nice if what people receive is big picture information about the church and our ministries at Christmas (and Easter). Visitors are more likely to read what you give them. 

Try to anticipate questions they may ask and answer them in what you hand to them. 

Christmas music. 

This was somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine. I’m sure our worship team felt my pressure here. But this is the time to sing Christmas music. I didn’t appreciate as much a service that offered songs we sang every Sunday and only one token Christmas song. 

I am not musical and have been told Christmas arrangements can be harder to put together and rehearse. This is not my area of expertise. I do know that culture actually helps us with this one. Where else can people sing Christmas music they know? They may actually sing Christmas carols they have known all their lives louder than any other time of year. Give them the opportunity even if it is simply a Christmas medley of favorites with little or no accompaniment. 

Plan good follow up.

If someone visits your church and takes time to give you information about them, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. The greatest return for visiting a church is often in the quality of the follow up after the service. People should hear from you. 

I personally like to give people options of how they want to be contacted and then obey their wishes. If they want a visit, someone needs to visit. But if they only want an email, then I would comply with their choice. But definitely let them know how much you appreciate them coming to your church.

Christmas is coming and, like most years, it seems to me like it got here sooner than last year. I pray as you prepare to meet people this Christmas that the joy of Christmas would be in your own heart and family. 

Please let me know any way we might serve you in the New Year! 

Merry Christmas!

7 First Impression Lessons from a Church Shopper

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 3 Comments

Opening disclosure. This post is going to seem negative, and I am far from a negative person. The glass is always over half full for me. I actually intend it to be positive if it encourages churches. 

The transition 18 months ago to the Dallas area was difficult when it came to finding a church to call home. In fact, I ended up taking a short-term interim pastor position for a softer landing. I grew up in the church where my parents and grandparents attended. We were there until I surrendered to vocational ministry at 38 years of age. Then I spent 16 years serving as a pastor. 

I have never been a church “shopper” until we moved to Dallas. 

But Cheryl and I learned a lot. 

First Impressions or Guest Relations, whatever term you choose to use, was always high on my priority list as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

I think my motivation came from my years in the business world. When I was in retail management I knew that the way the store looked, the merchandise was presented, and our associates treated shoppers were all vitally important parts of motivating someone to buy an item. 

Our experience

After visiting lots of different churches, in Dallas and in other cities, I have come to realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. 

I would never call any names, but in the first three churches we visited not one person said hello to us. And in two of them we attended Bible study. (True story!) We even filled out information cards, and no one contacted us. Not even an email! 

And I wish I could say that type experience ended after those three churches. It didn’t.

We started asking around and went to some churches where people told us they were very friendly. They weren’t. We often left feeling no one even knew we were there. They may be very friendly if you already knew everyone’s inside stories and the names of their kids, but they weren’t to outsiders – at least not to us.

We saw churches that had greeters, but the greeters didn’t smile and they were usually busy catching up with people they already knew. 

Please understand two things.

First, these were all good churches. I have no doubt every church we visited is making disciples. I am just sharing our experience, because I think it matters if we want to help first-time visitors (some who may not even have a relationship with Christ) become growing disciples. 

Even more important for you to understand if you’ve made it this far reading – I’m FOR the local church. This is not meant to be complaining. I want the Church to succeed and even believe the Church is the hope of the world. I’ve spent my ministry years trying to help the Church flourish. Cheryl and I always said if we weren’t serving on a church staff we want to be the best church members possible. 

I should also point out that we did find friendly churches. We found churches doing a good job at welcoming visitors. I have to be honest though that we found more that simply weren’t. 

It might also be important to know we visited primarily larger churches (500+ in attendance). This was simply because the churches that Leadership Network primarily served at the time were larger churches.

The bottom line is that if we miss first impressions, we are going to have a very difficult time growing our churches. 

7 First Impression lessons I learned as a church shopper: 

Websites matter. I don’t think I’m unusual in the fact that I never visited a church where I had not first spent time on their website. First I went to their staff page, previewed some sermons, and also checked out their Facebook and/or Instagram page mostly looking for pictures. Pictures tell a lot!

The fact that there are churches with no website amazes me. Perhaps even more is when I see a church with lots of resources that has an outdated, hard to navigate website. 

Parking lots matter. Pulling into the parking lot starts the experience of a church visit. We were so confused many times, not knowing what door to enter or where to park relative to the auditorium. Some had parking lot volunteers, but they weren’t engaging. 

I should note that we almost never used visitor parking. Some of this is because we wanted to save them for others, but also, especially as an Introvert, I didn’t want to be identified until I was ready to be identified. I did want to know where I was going though. 

Signage matters. Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather try to find my way if I can before I ask. Granted, we visited mostly larger churches, but some of them were so difficult to navigate. Some churches had no signage at all and some had signage written in a language we didn’t speak. For example, a catchy name for a building is nice, but if I want to go to the auditorium a building called “The Alley” (I made that one up) isn’t going to help me.

Imagine a family with a child wanting to go the the student ministry. If it’s in a separate building or on the other side of the building from the auditorium, calling it “The Deck” (I made that one up too) probably isn’t going to help them get there on time. And what student (or adult) loves to walk in late their first Sunday. 

Trained volunteers matter. Signage can’t solve everything. When a visitor makes the effort to ask someone, the person they ask should be able to help. We once asked a person who was handing out bulletins where a Bible study class was. He told us he didn’t know. Period. He didn’t tell us who to ask or direct us to where we could get the information, but that he simply didn’t know. 

Also, I am not sure you can have too many volunteers in this area of guest relations (starting in the parking lot). We wanted someone close enough to ask questions, but not so close that I felt uncomfortable. 

First Impressions matter. Entering the doors of a church the first time is hard. It was for me, but also for my extroverted wife. A smiling face goes a long way. Please, let me say this in love. You may not be as friendly as you think you are. This is an area I talked to our church about from behind the pulpit (or table I used) many times. It takes intentional vision-casting to remind people to be friendly to people they don’t already know. The atmosphere matters. You see the church every Sunday. It is your “home”. Visitors are new. They notice what you won’t.

Follow up matters. Again, we were surprised by the number of churches that did very little follow up if any. One church that did impress us was likely not even part of their system, but it could be systematized. A Bible study leader (a very friendly one) followed up with us a couple of months after we had visited their class. He just checked in to see if we needed anything or had found a class. Awesome! We truly felt “noticed”. 

All hands on deck matters. The one thing made clear to both my wife and me is that having a church that’s really “visitor friendly” probably starts at the top and trickles all the way throughout the church. 

I told you in the beginning this was going to appear negative. I expect some to criticize my use of the term “church shopper” and that we entered with a consumer mentality rather than a disciple mentality. Really, we just wanted to find a church. But I want you to know I really do want to help. This is such a critical part of our churches. By the way, I believe it enough that Cheryl and I joined the greeting ministry at the church where we attend. 

Yesterday I announced that I am beginning my own consulting practice. I hope to be a resource to churches in this area of Impressions. For some churches that could be onsite consulting to evaluate everything such as signage and appearance to training volunteers. Other churches may benefit in time from some online offerings – even if it is more discussions here on my blog. 

This is something I have come to realize is very important. It’s personal to me now and I want to help. I might suggest you take a few minutes and process some of this with your church staff or volunteers.

If you are a church that wants me to come to you, maybe even help you prepare for guests on Easter, send me an email and let’s talk. (Ron.Edmondson@gmail.com) 

Announcing a Life and Career Transition for Ron and Cheryl Edmondson

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 13 Comments

A Life Transition for The Edmondsons

I recently resigned my position as CEO of Leadership Network. Although my tenure is much shorter than I had anticipated when I arrived almost 18 months ago, I feel it has been a productive time for me and the organization. Leadership Network has a long, great history of helping the Church accelerate growth and innovation. I spent my time restructuring the organization and the team; hopefully positioning it for the future. At times it felt as though I was back in church revitalization.

As our new leadership team began to plan for 2020, I saw my role shifting from one of building something new to more maintaining and managing. In addition, development would become even more important in my role. Those who know me know I am not a good manager and fundraising doesn’t excite me. Plus, I had less “hands on” time with pastors and the local church than I anticipated the position affording me.  

At 55 years old, I am wise enough to know that life is short, and time is precious. Wisdom and experience tell me these should be some of my most productive years. I want to use them doing something that fuels me every day. Likewise, in fairness, Leadership Network needs someone leading who is fully engaged at what the position requires of them. 

This was not a quick decision. It was a matter of several months of prayer and discussion and gaining counsel from a few wise friends. Cheryl and I used a recent trip to Israel as a deciding time to confirm this was the right decision for us and the organization.

What’s Next

Todd Wilson, with Exponential, once advised me that I’m a “5 chip guy”. He said I must be doing multiple things to feel fulfilled. I probably should have listened closer to him then. 

Currently, unless God intervenes, after the sale of our home, we plan to move to the Nashville area where we have family and friends. This move alone excites us. We lived in the area until seven and a half years ago and have lots of community there. I will launch my own ministry serving churches and organizations in the role of consulting, writing, speaking, and preaching. Several churches have entertained the idea of me doing some intentional interim work. I’ve been doing online ministry since “dial up” days in the mid 90’s. Look for more of this in the future. 

Let me share a few broad thoughts and then I’ll unpack more of this in the days to come.

Consulting

I may be somewhat unique in that I have successful experience in both church revitalization and church planting. It fuels me to help churches (and organizations) figure out how to start, re-start and scale. I think my experience can help with a broad range of leadership issues. 

One area I am particularly interested in helping churches think through is what I’m calling Impressions. The whole guest relations area was a pet peeve of mine as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

After 18 months of visiting lots of different churches, I realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. I’d love to help churches think through and improve this ministry in their context. 

I wrote a post talking more about this HERE.

Adjunct staff member

Would it be of value to you if you could add some “strategic thinking” capacity to your staff team for a day or two – maybe once or maybe once a month for a year? Again, I love brainstorming and thinking through next steps. Whether it is figuring out staffing structure, organizational culture, or strategies for growth, if you’ve got a problem and need an experienced voice in the room, I’m here to help. 

Teaching/Preaching

I’m open for opportunities to guest preach at your church. Also, as invited, I will continue to speak at conferences and workshops. 

I have already agreed to one opportunity. For those of you who pastor, but never had the time (or inclination) to go to seminary, I will be working with Ed Stetzer at the Wheaton Grad School to teach two special cohorts, one for pastors of churches running 1000-2000, and another for pastors of churches over 2000. Stetzer is the dean and has developed these cohorts. (Matt Chandler is in one and he talked about it here.)

The program is not only practical, but also fosters the holistic development of spiritual maturity, theological integration, and skilled leadership. I’m thrilled to be able to be a guest lecturer in the program. The cohort model allows leaders of similar size / stage churches to learn from one another, network, and is always a time of encouragement. In addition to the Wheaton faculty, Will Mancini will also be involved. Since these are for established church leaders, we will meet 1-2 times per year for the week-long classes and the remainder of the courses will be done online with the cohort. If you’d like to participate in this cohort, go to www.wheaton.edu/mml or email MML@wheaton.edu for more information. We’re taking around 20 students, so inquire soon if you’re interested. 

Online offerings

I have provided content to pastors and other leaders through my blog, devotionals, and other resources since my first devotional site launched in the mid 90’s. There is more I can offer here, including some online coaching opportunities. Stay tuned. 

A Walk of Faith

Over 17 years ago, when I surrendered to leaving the business world and entering vocational ministry, Cheryl and I both agreed we would always be willing to walk by faith. Cheryl asked recently, “Is it okay to be 100% at peace and still be a little afraid?“ Of course it is. This is a move of faith. I always taught our churches that when we know what God would have us do the time to obey is now. God will handle the details.

Please pray for our house to sell. We would also appreciate prayers for the right opportunities to come about and be made clear.

I’m filling my first quarter calendar. If your church or organization needs my help, please email me now (ron.edmondson@gmail.com) and let’s start talking.

Ways to Help Your Pastor This Christmas

By | Christians, Church, Leadership | No Comments

One of my goals in ministry is to help protect other ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to have served in healthy churches, which encouraged my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helped. As pastor, I usually had a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even had several retired ministers in our church who could help fill in when needed.

During the Christmas season – and really into the new year – I want to share a few things you can do and a few not to do to support the ministers you probably love. The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected. Sadly, they may not even realize this until it is too late and the family is grown and out of the house.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to do and not do to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray especially for them during the holidays. Send notes and words of encouragement to them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift. This is an especially stressful time for everyone, but in some professions, such as ministry, it is not a slower time. It is a busier one.
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them. And, if they do come, try to you see them as regular people who like to have fun. Do not make them talk “Church” unless they want to and, remember, they do not always have to be the one to pray.
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Make them feel guilty when they can’t make your event. They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. Don’t take it personal. It probably isn’t. It may simply be practical. They simply can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try.
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human.
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to vocational ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?

7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Who Want to Grow Churches

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I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God grows churches and He works through all different types of people. I have heard great pastors say — “I know how to teach and care for the people, but I’m not always sure how to lead.” They recognize the value in and the need for leadership, but were never trained to do it well.

In my experience, there are helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to care for and disciple people, but also grow and be healthy. A church can have momentum, unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission. That usually takes leadership.

Here are a 7 helpful skills I’ve observed:

Following – Ultimately, it’s all about Christ and church growth will be a matter of prayer and the work of God’s Spirit. I can’t lead people closer to Christ unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ.

But following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Self leadership — and following others who are healthy — keeps a leader in it for the duration.

Networking – This is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission – inside and outside the church. This is likely obvious inside the church. Churches need the right people in the right seats of leadership. I often found those leaders through networking – learning who was in the church and what skills they have to offer.

One place where good relationships always proved helpful outside the church was within the local school system. Churches can make significant missional differences in their community through school relationships. Those relationships are usually formed through networking. And the possibilities here are endless.

Connecting – The best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. The pastor meeting them isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders ensure systems are created that connect people to people within the church. This skill values creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church and see that it is an intentional part of the church’s overall mission.

Vision-casting – Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next, but they can rally people behind a vision. I like to tell pastors that a good vision message (often given at a business meeting) is sometimes the most important sermon you will write.

Pioneering – To lead a church by faith, a pastor has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and often take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always starts with new — doing things differently — creating new groups, new opportunities — trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.

Delegating – No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it Biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to completing a specific aspect of attaining the overall vision.

Confronting – If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change and any change in a church involves a change in people. Most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision, and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.

That’s my list. And I believe, while you may not be naturally inclined towards each of them, most, if not all of these, can be developed with intentionality.

Four Seasons of Leadership

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After years of leading, I have learned there are four seasons of leadership. There could be more, but I’ve been able to clearly identify these four.

Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration. You may think you are doing something wrong. Yet you’re only in a different season.

Four seasons:

Some plant – Many leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter in two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing both of those churches are still thriving today. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.

Some water – Other leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams, create good structure and help things continue to grow.

Some pull weeds – Still other leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes, restructure and clear the path to progress. This was my primary role in church revitalization and in my current role.

Some harvest – Finally, other leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. These leaders know how to celebrate well and continually fuel new momentum.

Granted we do some of these within every season. And we must spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.

It’s great when you get to do all of these in one position of leadership. It hasn’t always happened for me. Also, in my experience, we only get to enjoy one or maybe a couple at any particular time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it seems rare – and difficult – to lead all four of these seasons at one time.

Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.